“We will not leave our ancestral land,” Colonel Qaddafi said in the audio message, according to a translation by Reuters. He addressed reports that a column of fighters and officials from his government had fled south into Niger, saying such military convoys are common. “This is not the first time that convoys drive in and out of Niger.”

On Wednesday, a spokesman for a powerful militia commander said Wednesday that Colonel Qaddafi had been cornered in the Sahara, a report dismissed by a spokesman for the transitional government’s military.

Rebel leaders and officials in neighboring Niger said neither Colonel Qaddafi nor two of his sons had fled to that country, contrary to the speculation that arose after news organizations reported that 200 or more vehicles had headed there.